Mental Disorders Worse in Single Parent

Article excerpt

Byline: STEVE DOUGHTY

THE breakdown of the traditional family has brought an explosion in mental health problems among children, a Government report revealed yesterday.

Its devastating findings showed that children of single mothers are twice as likely as those with two parents to suffer from disorders including hyperactivity, phobias, and uncontrollable behaviour.

Children of couples who live together without marrying are, in turn, twice as likely to have mental health difficulties as those of married parents, the report said.

The analysis of the background of more than 10,000 children also found that those living in families with stepchildren were far more likely to suffer difficulties than those from unbroken families.

Overall, one in ten children aged between five and 15 have mental health problems, the report found.

But among children of married couples, the level is under one in 20, while in single parent families the figure is around one in six.

Researchers from the Government's Office for National Statistics joined psychiatrists and psychologists from the Maudsley Hospital and Institute of Psychiatry in London to produce the

Youngsters are paying the price report after questioning parents, children and teachers.

They concluded 'social and family functioning are key risk factors for childhood psychopathology.' And they suggested, powerfully, that in the spread of debilitating mental health problems among both young children and adolescents, Britain is counting the cost allowing the collapse of the traditional family over 25 years.

The report found 'marital discord, parental breakdown and divorce, remarriage or cohabitation, and single parent families have all been shown to be associated with negative outcomes in young people. It is possible that changes in patterns of family life

'Uncontrollable behaviour' have led to an increase in the conditions of family functioning that lead to depression among adolescents'.

The report casts a baleful new light on family policies pursued by Tony Blair's Government, which insist state support for marriage amounts to prejudice against the unmarried and their children.

Ministers have abolished married couples' allowance, set up a National Family and Parenting Institute that disparages the importance of marriage to family life, and tried to introduce school sex education rules equating 'stable relationships' with marriage.

The price is being paid by children, according to the results delivered in the report, Mental Health of Children and Adolescents in Great Britain.

It says lone parents and cohab-itees are less likely to be in work; more likely to be poor; to live in council housing and to show 'unhealthy' levels of discord. …